The best food fiction to inspire eating and reading at the same time

Why am I passionate about this?

Food has always been my existential retreat from the world. Whether eating solo or with people, countless meals have been the best hyperbolic time chambers for strengthening relationships with others and with myself. And I’ve always wanted to write, to participate in ageless forums of subject and technique in this great literary tradition of ours. I guess these two art forms and obsessions were bound to lock horns in my aesthetic makeup. In my world, good reading is good eating. It’s that simple. No other qualifications are needed. I inhaled the following books and was made full every time – to eventually take a stab at a couple of recipes also.


I wrote...

The Long Takeout: Short Stories for the Hungry Sojourner

By Elijah Douresseau,

Book cover of The Long Takeout: Short Stories for the Hungry Sojourner

What is my book about?

The Long Takeout is a collection that follows characters from various neighborhoods around LA, as food frames their struggles to find themselves in the sprawling Southern California region. Newly minted criminals, having just committed murder, figure out their next moves over a meal at a brunch café. A mother, in chemo, and her chauffeur son get closer as they go on various food excursions after her treatment appointments. In nine short stories, the people of Los Angeles come alive in a slice-of-life way, exploring who they are at their differing pitstops of self-discovery.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South

Elijah Douresseau Why did I love this book?

There is a reason my book starts with a quote from this very book. It’s the collection’s rallying cry!

Twitty took me on such a journey of history and identity through food. The deeply historical and regional cooking and agricultural methods of the enslaved detailed in this work were the intersections and the canvas for revisiting historical timelines.

This is a nonfiction book, but it embodied my aspirations for making food in literature a forefront topic. I’ve never done any serious ancestry profile surveys, but this may be my favorite version – as a child of Jamaican immigrants wholly descended from the African/slave diaspora. A food writing master class.

By Michael W. Twitty,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Cooking Gene as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2018 James Beard Foundation Book of the Year | 2018 James Beard Foundation Book Award Winner inWriting | Nominee for the 2018 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Nonfiction | #75 on The Root100 2018

A renowned culinary historian offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, in this illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry—both black and white—through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom.

Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who "owns" it is one of the most provocative touch points in our…


Book cover of Food: A Love Story

Elijah Douresseau Why did I love this book?

If Cooking Gene is the rallying cry, Food: A Love Story is the marching time music.

Gaffigan expands the food observations and shenanigans from his standup routines and this memoir is just as funny as watching the family man on stage. Gaffigan’s food writing maintains a golden dynamic of being approachable and personal at the same time.

It was full of personality and gave me valuable insight into how to shape my character’s food habits as the focal point of literary scrutiny.

By Jim Gaffigan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Food as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“What are my qualifications to write this book? None really. So why should you read it? Here’s why: I’m a little fat. If a thin guy were to write about a love of food and eating I’d highly recommend that you do not read his book.”
 
Bacon. McDonalds. Cinnabon. Hot Pockets. Kale. Stand-up comedian and author Jim Gaffigan has made his career rhapsodizing over the most treasured dishes of the American diet (“choking on bacon is like getting murdered by your lover”) and decrying the worst offenders (“kale is the early morning of foods”). Fans flocked to his New York…


Book cover of Stay Hungry

Elijah Douresseau Why did I love this book?

I have this weird rule. It’s more of a habit I developed while reading for the last few years: for every fiction book I read, I alternate with a nonfiction book afterward. It’s not that strange of a rule, but it has been what has felt right since 2019. And for nonfiction works, I tend to feast on memoirs by comedians. It’s just my thing.

Maniscalco’s coming-of-age memoir recounts his journey of venturing to LA as a humble youngin’, grinding away, to eventually develop his full-fledged star status. Food is an interesting device in this one, as it’s the backdrop, the motif, and the recipe for not only staying afloat but daring to thrive also.

Another good example of developing voice when it comes to food as an amorphous topic.

By Sebastian Maniscalco,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stay Hungry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This inspiring, honest, uproarious collection of essays traces Sebastian Maniscalco’s career from playing boxing rings and bowling alleys to reaching the pinnacles of comedy success.

At twenty-four, Sebastian Maniscalco arrived in LA with a suitcase and saved up minimum wages. He knew no one and nothing about standup comedy, but he was determined to go for it anyway.

At forty-four, he’s on the Forbes’ list of highest earning comedians, sells out arenas, and has starred in four hit comedy specials including Why Would You Do That? on Showtime.

Stay Hungry tells the story of the twenty years in between. On…


Book cover of Legends & Lattes

Elijah Douresseau Why did I love this book?

This bestselling book is a Top 40’s demonstration of how food as a subgenre can pair well with a multitude of speculative giants in the marketplace.

Baldree’s easy-to-pick-up fantasy work makes food the leading character’s quirk, as she strives to cultivate her own happily ever after – as an archetypal orc who isn’t supposed to have one. This was instantly one of those wonderful installments in this broad food writing tradition that made me go, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

Looking forward to the follow-up this fall.

By Travis Baldree,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked Legends & Lattes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

High fantasy, low stakes - with a double-shot of coffee.

After decades of adventuring, Viv the orc barbarian is finally hanging up her sword for good. Now she sets her sights on a new dream - for she plans to open the first coffee shop in the city of Thune. Even though no one there knows what coffee actually is.

If Viv wants to put the past behind her, she can't go it alone. And help might arrive from unexpected quarters. Yet old rivals and new stand in the way of success. And Thune's shady underbelly could make it all…


Book cover of Digestate: A Food & Eating Themed Anthology

Elijah Douresseau Why did I love this book?

Digestate is probably the original spark point for my short story collection. I discovered this graphic anthology during my writing MFA program in the Bay Area.

It was such a strong and artful reminder to keep what would eventually become my book, years later, a diverse series of stories from different characters’ points of view. Diverse - in a variety of meaningful ways that are visible to everyone else in the diegetic, literary universe between Digestate’s covers.

It’s weird. It’s funny. It has great visual, narrative takes on food, style, and choice.

By J.T. Yost,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Digestate as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over 50 indie comic artists contribute their interpretations of the theme "food and eating" in this gigantic telephone-book sized anthology. A wide range of subject and tone including autobio, fiction, nonfiction and essays (and everything in-between). Contributors: Jeffrey Brown, Renée French, Alex Robinson, James Kochalka, Marc Bell, Box Brown, Kevin Cannon, Noah Van Sciver, Josh Bayer, Danny Hellman, Sam Henderson, Josh Burggraf, L. Nichols, Al Ortiz, Sophia Wiedeman, Paul Hoppe, C.M. Butzer, Victor Kerlow, John Kerschbaum, Dan Piraro, Jess Ruliffson, Ben Snakepit, Cha, Adam Hines, Sungyoon Choi, Nate Doyle, Minty Lewis, Hawk Krall, Aaron Mew, Jonas Madden-Connor, Keith Knight, Pranas…


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Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

Book cover of Rip Current

Sharon Ward Author Of In Deep

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a kid, I was intrigued by the underwater world, so as an adult, I learned to scuba dive. I took to it like a fish to water, and my husband and I spent the next several years traveling to tropical islands to experience the local dive conditions whenever possible. I loved learning how every island had a different culture and a different undersea environment. Since I love tropical islands, scuba diving, mysteries, and adventure stories, these books really hit my sweet spot.

Sharon's book list on mysteries set on a tropical island

What is my book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.

Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary. When a young internet influencer…

Rip Current

By Sharon Ward,

What is this book about?

Unsettled weather has caused life-threatening rip currents to sprout up seemingly at random in the usually tranquil sea around Grand Cayman. Despite posted warnings to stay out of the surf, several women lose their life when caught in the turbulent waters. Fin attempts some dangerous rescues, and nearly loses her own life in the process.
Meanwhile, Fin and the team at RIO are struggling to find more sources of funding for the Institute’s important research, and danger arises from an unexpected source while Fin and hot movie star Rafe Cummings are filming an upcoming documentary.
Soon after a young internet…


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